Monday, September 04, 2017

A Tale of Two Weddings

The wedding of my parents was a relatively simple affair.

My father's Air National Guard unit had been activated, and he was heading off to join the occupation forces in Germany. But about a week before he shipped out, he married Mom. When I was a boy, I would ask him where they went on their honeymoon. He said he was still on it. Only years later did I learn, that it too was rather scaled-down as well.

IMAGE: The wedding of Dorothy Rosselot to Paul Alexander, with their attendants, Margery Rosselot and Raymond Alexander, St Patrick Church, Fayetteville, Ohio, June 1952.

That was sixty-five years ago this past summer.

Closer to the present, it was just thirty-five years ago today, that I was treated to the most fun I have ever had at a wedding -- believe it or not, my own.

The day was picked out well in advance using The Old Farmer's Almanac, and we got the sunny and mild weather that was predicted. It was meticulously planned to the last detail, with invitations personally silk-screened by the groom, and addressed by hand in calligraphy. As it was a daytime wedding, the groom and his attendants wore morning coats. God forbid they appear in black tie before six in the evening. There were little more than a hundred people in attendance, making the little church just over half full. The choir from the parish in Georgetown where I sang was present, singing Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus and Duruflé's Ubi Caritas in Latin, as the Divine Liturgy was chanted throughout in English and Slavonic. We exchanged custom-designed rings, each bearing a simulation of the wreathed crowns that we wore as the Gospel was proclaimed.

IMAGE: A scene from the author's first marriage, Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church, Annandale, Virginia, September 1982.

The reception was held at the old Evans Farm Inn in McLean, Virginia. (A luxury townhouse neighborhood now stands in its place, for reasons that defy all good sense.) Papa was a rough-edged steel mill foreman from Cleveland, who dropped out of school in the ninth grade when his father died, leaving him to support the family. By this time retired, he would accept nothing less than a show of his generosity. And so, the bridal couple's choice of chicken cordon bleu for dinner was abandoned in favor of prime rib, and the event is, to this day, the only wedding I have ever attended, with an open bar.

You read that right. Open, as in, all you can drink without falling down.

We had an old-fashioned square dance. Obviously the amplification did not blow the doors off the place, so people of all ages could relax and hear themselves think. Indeed, it was a central tenet of the couple's plans, that everyone of all ages and stations in life would feel comfortable at the event. Even the priest stayed for dinner. (They don't always, usually for reasons stated above.) As for the then-happy couple, they were last seen at ten o'clock in the evening, dancing with "Doc" Botzer on the piano, doing the Salty Dog Rag.

VIDEO: Dancing to Red Foley's 1952 hit song, "The Salty Dog Rag" has been a Dartmouth College tradition since 1972, where it is taught to freshman during orientation. Don't ask me why.

The total cost of the 1982 event was roughly four thousand dollars, an expense shared between the bride's parents, the groom's parents, and the couple themselves (with descending percentages of the share in that order). Using the consumer price index, this amount would translate in 2017 to just over ten thousand dollars. The average cost of a wedding in the United States is presently estimated at just over twenty-seven thousand dollars.

The bride's sister later said that the wedding was not only excruciatingly correct, but was one where everyone was made to feel at home. The marriage was a complete disaster, but the event that started it, in this writer's estimation, is a model for all the world to follow.

The marriage lasted just under ten years. After twenty-five years, if I tell a devout Catholic that I've been divorced all this time, they'll go "Awww" and tell me how sorry they are. I state here for the record that, first, she left me, and second, after a quarter of a century I'm not sorry anymore.

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It is the observation of this writer, generally speaking, that there are only six kinds of people for whom a Catholic wedding in this day and age, especially in North America, is suited in terms of feeling at home.

1) The bride and groom (we can only hope),

2) The bridal party, as the event revolves around them, if to a lesser degree than the couple,

3) The families of the bride and groom,

4) Single young men and women of marriageable age, as such events tend to inspire them to follow suit,

5) Other married couples, for whom this occasion is to welcome the newlyweds to their mutual state in life, and finally

6) Two or more women in a group, if only to talk about what everyone else is wearing.

IMAGE: The author plays his great-uncle's 1916 Stewart banjo with the band. Fiddler-pianist Dennis "Doc" Botzer is to his left. Opposite is the renowned dance caller Louis Shapiro.

Now that may appear to cover a lot, but you may notice the absence of two categories.

One of them is celibate clergy. Priests who officiate at weddings are often invited to the reception, but they usually leave as the party is getting started. Such events as these are not the most comfortable for those who choose the celibate life, and after some years of taking the cloth, they develop an aversion to very loud music, (I'm a musician by avocation, and even I don't get the idea of cranking up the volume.)

The other is divorced or unmarried people of middle age, especially men, especially when unaccompanied. The best dancer among them will be turned down, either by many a married woman for whom this is not her husband or close friend, or an unmarried and eligible woman who does not see her unborn children in his eyes. (See item 4.) Of course, it is ill-mannnered to presume to bring a guest who is not invited by the bridal couple. It is certainly not for relationships that are less than serious, and publicly so. The guest must receive a separate invitation, or the invitation may be addressed to the invitee "and Guest."

IMAGE: In an old Eastern European custom, the bride relinquishes her veil for the babushka, signifying her entry into womanhood. Note the bridesmaids' dresses (from Garfinkles), in a style which they would be most likely to wear again.

A few years ago, one of the best friends I ever made in this God-forsaken city after more than three decades, married a young woman who is just right for him. I had occasion to meet her and her mother for brunch after Mass. The groom has also met Sal, and we have both been to his house. Our association was no secret, and he had no cause for that association as a source of scandal. So when I received the invitation, I was taken aback that it was addressed to me alone. Now, Sal is a woman of a rather high degree of breeding, born and raised in the Philippines to be well-versed in old world Spanish manners. If she was insulted by the exclusion (and she was), then she had a reason.

Nevertheless, it was the prerogative of the happy couple to decide that which was in their interest, and one should take pains here to lay stress. Mine was to decline the invitation, send them a very nice gift, and wish for them nothing but the best. He and I are still friends, but it's not the same.

Harry Truman was right about this town. If I had a much bigger place, I'd get a dog.
 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bourbon and Branches

We've seen the ads for Ancestry.com and other similar products, allowing us to discover what we never knew about where our ancestors came from, and what makes each of us what we are today. (Some people are more surprised than others. You remember Kyle, don't you?)

In the years before the internet made the job much easier, my family had been rather thoroughly researched on both the Alexander and Rosselot (pronounced ROSS-uh-low) sides. This piece recounts them both, leading to at least one interesting discovery.

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In 1988, I, along with several generations on my mother's side, received a large spiral-bound book called "The Henry Rosselot Family History." It tells of Pierre Henri Rousselot his wife, the former Francoise Bermont, and their six children, migrating to America from Belfort, Alsace, France, in 1838. They arrived in Cincinnati, and in search of farmable land, went east into Clermont County, settling near the town of New Boston (now Owensville) in the surrounding township of Stonelick. Their descendants spread throughout the northern part of the county, and farther east into Brown County.

Saint Philomela Church, "the little church in the valley" established in 1839, and the parish of many of the Rosselot clan who settled there.

In January of 1900, Henri's great-grandson, Walter James Rosselot, was born in a log cabin just east of Newtonsville, Clermont County. Dropping out of high school shortly after his freshman year began (as the story goes that he found it lacking in intellectual stimulation), he continued his education on his own. His first date with Frances Gertrude Evans was in 1919, at a crossroads of Brown County known as Vera Cruz, at the little Holy Ghost Church. They married in 1923 at nearby Saint Patrick Church in Fayetteville, Ohio. In what may have been unusual twist those days, our high school dropout won the heart of a college graduate. "Gertie" had graduated from a two-year "normal school," or teacher's college, affiliated with Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and was teaching at a one-room schoolhouse near Vera Cruz. After renting in two other places, they eventually bought a farm in 1925 at the edge of a valley near the East Fork of the Little Miami River.

The Evans family originated from just north of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and were predominantly Methodists. Among those who migrated to Ohio, some converted to the Catholic Faith, others did not. Among the branches comprising the latter, settling in southern Clermont County, Ohio, was one born with the name Hiram Ulysses Grant. He was later and better known as Ulysses S Grant, the great Union general in the War Between the States, and later the 18th President of the United States. This was always a part of the Rosselot family folklore, and subsequent research in recent years confirmed it.

So, this writer is an indirect descendant of an American President, making every fifty-dollar bill in circulation a kind of family memento.

But ... that's not the interesting discovery. This gets better.

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The commune of Hannonville-sous-les-Côtes as it appears today.

In 1961, I was given a pamphlet entitled "The History of the Andre Alexandre Family." While the narrative is rather sparse, we learned that my great-great-grandfather came to Ohio around 1840, from France, a little town north of Verdun in the Lorraine province (the Meuse department in Grand Est in north-eastern France) known as Hannonville-sous-les-Côtes. He first went to Cleveland, and worked on the railroad, finally settling in Darke County, in west central Ohio, where many from his part of France, even the same town, had already settled. It was there, in a region known today as the “Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches” he met a young lady from his former hometown, one Marie Couchot. They married in a little church named for Saint Louis in North Star, Wabash Township, a few miles from the birthplace of Annie Oakley. From there, at least eight generations of progeny have grown to the present day.

Nearly twenty years ago, my cousin Angela Alexander served with the Air Force as part of the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. It was during her various occasions on leave that she journeyed to other parts of the continent, and eventually to the United Kingdom. It was there that she learned that the Alexandre line was descended from Scottish highlanders, more precisely Clan Donald of the Isle of Skye among Na h-Eileanan a-staigh ("the inner isles") along the western coast of Scotland. They fought with the Jacobite rebellion for restoration of the Scottish crown, and independence from England. When the cause was lost, many of those of Clan Donald had sufficient means to find exile in France, the result of their alliance with "Bonnie Prince Charles" and a mutual disdain for the English. Much of this part of our heritage was lost to the mists of time until the present.

Now we get to the really good part.

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One of Andre's sons, Albert, married Ann Katherine Grilliot (originally "Grillot," pronounced "GRILL-oh," before some idiot at Ellis Island inserted a typo), and they eventually bought a farm elsewhere in Wabash Township.

In my encomium to my father, written six years ago, there is related a bit of family folklore.

Leonard had been a teetotaler before getting into "the family business" operated by his mother, the former Ann Katherine Grilliot (Grillot), a feisty and formidable woman, who produced a byproduct of corn in the bathtub of their farmhouse, and had husband and sons on the payroll of her enterprise.

Annie Kate's mother was a woman named Marie Anne Aubry, a family that originated elsewhere in Meuse, in a town known as Herbeuville. It is from here, that our lineage can be traced back to King Louis XIV, also known as Louis the Great, also known as "The Sun King" who ruled France from 1643 until his death in 1715, as well as his grandson, Louis XVI, who reigned from 1774, until his overthrow in 1792 in the French Revolution, and his execution the following year. By extension, this links our family to the House of Bourbon, the rightful claimants to the French throne, currently in the person of one Prince Louis Alphonse of Bourbon, Duke of Bourbon and Anjou, who would assume the regnal name of Louis XX.

So, not only is this writer descended from a President, but also from royalty!

Of course, we'd probably just call him "Cousin Louie" if he shows up at reunions.

As if that were not enough, our lineage through the Aubry-Grillot line has been traced all the way back to Charlemagne (Charles the Great), born in 742, who ruled as King of the Franks from 768, King of the Lombards from 774, and Emperor of the Romans from 800, until his death in 814. Under his rule, much of Europe was united, enabling the rise of Christendom in the Middle Ages.

Further records have traced our lineage as far back as 600. Our ancestors held title to lands in the provinces of Burgundy, Brittany, and Normandy, all at one time separate realms, until brought together under a united France as the centuries came and went.

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So, what to make of all this?

When I was a little boy, and first heard I was descended from the French, it sounded glamorous, as some Americans might grow up imagining the French to be. I drew pictures of myself riding in a horse-drawn carriage, imagining that I was the lost Dauphin, awaiting the entourage that would rescue me from my dull existence, and return to me the crown and scepter that were rightfully mine. It was then that Grandpa Alexander told me the awful truth, that his own Grandpa and Grandma were poor. Andre was a wagon-wheel maker with a shop in North Star, who spoke very little English. His children, on the other hand, spoke very little French, having already acclimated themselves to the new world, and certainly having forgotten a long-buried heritage, only to be uncovered by a descendant more than a century later.

Paul David Alexander, posing with a fellow cast member, on the set of a remake of George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Then there was my son, Paul, to whom I first broke the news. Judging from his announcement in social media, he didn't take it in quite the way I expected.

Just found out I'm a descendant of the House of Bourbon on my dad's side, so I have to behead myself now.
I'm also descended from Jacobites on my dad's side. My forefathers gave zero f***s about my leftist cred.

It's tough to be a card-carrying socialist, only to discover that you're descended from the very flower of the bourgeoisie. Imagine no longer being invited to all the right (or should I say left) parties. I only hope he can move on with his life.

In recent years, I have managed to make the acquaintance of a number of aficionados from the arcane world of Catholic Monarchism. There are the usual congratulations, of course, and one of them telling me simply to "enjoy it." (Obviously I already am.) One of them told me of more than one account, of friends discovering they were descended from some figure of history. All this (and the potential invasion of privacy) is possible through the magic of DNA testing.

My siblings are finding out along with the rest of you, dear readers. They probably think I'm just showing off. Then again, I also wonder how my “Cousin Hiram” would react. Maybe this proves that we really are all descended from Adam and Eve, don't you think?

Or don't you?

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This writer extends the most heartfelt gratitude to his cousin, Angela Alexander, of Fairborn, Ohio, for her years spent in genealogical research. It is her tireless efforts that have contributed greatly to this account.
 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Assumption of Mary

There will be an important announcement here at man with black hat, coming exactly one week from today, on that which according to the traditional Roman calendar is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. That day was chosen for reasons that will become clearer at that time. But until that time, we return this time to our regular (such as it is) programming ...

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Fly, my soul, with Mary fly,
Soar beyond the golden sky,
Mount to Mary's throne on high.

Bright the queenly crown she won,
Sweet the reign she has begun,
As she stands beside her Son.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

How endure this long delay?
Living here how can I stay
From such beauty far away?
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Sad my lot is here below;
Who can hope or life bestow?
Who will help or pity show?
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

But though far away from me,
Still our sovereign Queen will be
Full of love and clemency.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

With a mother's loving care
She will lift those hands so fair,
And will save us by her prayer.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Mother's heart can ne'er forget
That we are her children yet,
By such dangers fierce beset.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Gently, still, she bends her eyes
On the soul that longs and sighs
For her love, the heavenly prize.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Blest the soul who, like the dove
Borne upon the wings of love,
Follows her to heaven above.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

St Alphonsus de Liguori (1696-1787). Eugene Grimm, editor. The Glories of Mary. New York: Redemptoris Fathers, 1931.
 

Monday, August 14, 2017

The View From Charlottesville

Concerning the recent violence in Charlottesville, the home of Thomas Jefferson in the heart of the great Commonwealth that is Virginia, there are four lessons to be learned.

First, those in the so-called "alt-right" movement speak of defending their "European, American, and Christian heritage." Catholics, specifically traditional Catholics, must bear in mind that for most of American history, "Christian" was a euphemism for "Protestant." Until the 1960 election of John Kennedy as President, most Protestants, alt least in the South, did not consider Catholicism to be Christian. Most if not all of the neo-nazi and KKK types marching in Charlottesville despise Catholics every bit as much as they do Jews and persons of color. Those of the "alt right" would also be loathe to remember that the very flower of Western civilization, that of the rise of Christendom in Europe, was specifically Catholic is its origins.

In other words, while "American heritage" is inherently Protestant, what they proclaim as "European heritage" is inherently Catholic.

Second, the incident may have been sparked by an attempt to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, but in the end it had little to do with that, never mind that Lee himself would never have approved. The history of the War Between the States (more commonly and misleadingly known as "The Civil War"), and the tensions between North and South until that time, had to do with a lot more than slavery. If it did not, then explain why blacks fought on both sides of the war, and to this day, black men comprise part of the membership of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and proudly carry the Southern Cross in public.

PHOTO: A counter-demonstrator used a lighted spray can against a white nationalist demonstrator. (Steve Helber/Boston Globe)

Third, acts of violence were initiated by elements of both sides of the confrontation, but the mainstream media likes simple little bedtime stories of "good guys" and "bad guys," and the truth doesn't fit the narrative. And both sides, including the counter protesters, gave the purveyors of dirty laundry exactly what they wanted. Those who didn't want violence would have accomplished more by staying home.

"Both sides sprayed chemical irritants and hurled plastic bottles through the air."

And one poor woman was killed by a maniac.

Fourth, and finally, the cause of political and social conservatism, and whatever heritage it embodied, has been set back by years, thanks to a bunch of stupid jack@$$ rednecks with time on their hands, and no real idea of the ideals for which they claim to stand.

And so it goes.

Friday, June 23, 2017

In corde Jesu

Today, Catholics of the Western tradition celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

Outside of devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, there is none more popular or more identified with the traditional piety of Catholic life than this feast, occurring on Friday of the week following the Feast of Corpus Christi. It was on that earlier feast when a Novena to the Sacred Heart would begin, culminating in the Mass and Office of today.

“Christ’s open side and the mystery of blood and water were meditated upon, and the Church was beheld issuing from the side of Jesus, as Eve came forth from the side of Adam. It is in the eleventh and twelfth centuries that we find the first unmistakable indications of devotion to the Sacred Heart. Through the wound in the side, the wound Heart was gradually reached, and the wound in the Heart symbolized the wound of love.” (1917 Catholic Encyclopedia)

There were various monastic communities who took up the devotion, but the real tip of the biretta has always gone to St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90), a Visitation nun who had a vision. While praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she saw Our Lord with his heart beating openly, and the sight of it all sent her into a spell of ecstasy. “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart.” To say the least.

But perhaps the finest explanation of this vision can be found in an episode of The X-Files, a detective series that ran on The Fox Network for nine years, and to this day has a formidable cult following. It is from the series' sixth season, and is entitled "Milagro" (6X18), originally airing on April 18, 1999. It seems there were people being murdered by their hearts being removed by hand. FBI Special Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) visited a Catholic church, and coming across the image of the Sacred Heart, she runs into this unsavory fellow who explains the story behind the image to her. A piece of the dialogue, from the mysterious writer named Philip Padgett (John Hawkes), describes a vision:

I often come here to look at this painting. It’s called “My Divine Heart” after the miracle of Saint Margaret Mary. Do you know the story ... The revelation of the Sacred Heart? Christ came to Margaret Mary, his heart so inflamed with love that it was no longer able to contain its burning flames of charity. Margaret Mary ... so filled with divine love herself, asked the Lord to take her heart ... and so he did, placing it alongside his until it burned with the flames of his passion. Then he restored it to Margaret Mary, sealing her wound with the touch of his blessed hand.

His account portrays an almost sensuous quality to the Saint's reaction to this vision, in a way that one might rarely hear or read anywhere else. It is a sign that perhaps the influence of Christendom has not entirely faded from the popular culture, not to mention images created in tattoo parlors.

A common practice in many Catholic homes until the mid-20th century (including mine), was the "Enthronement of the Sacred Heart," in which the family placed the appropriate image of Christ on the wall, and together recited the necessary prayers, pledging the consecration of the family and the home to Him, in return for special graces. Fisheaters has a good explanation of the whole kit and caboodle, just in case it makes a comeback.


It could happen.
 

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Novena: Pentecost

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.
Amen. Alleluia.


Give them virtue's sure reward;
give them thy salvation, Lord;
give them joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.


Prayer

Come, O Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, And enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.

V: Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created,

R: And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.

Oh God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Ghost, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise and to ever rejoice in His consolations, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which have appeared in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To view this entire series, click here.)
 

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Novena Day 9: The Fruits of the Holy Ghost

Da tuis fidelibus
in te confidentibus
sacrum septenarium.


On the faithful, who adore
and confess thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gift descend.


Meditation

The gifts of the Holy Ghost perfect the supernatural virtues by enabling us to practice them with greater docility to divine inspiration. As we grow in the knowledge and love of God under the direction of the Holy Ghost, our service becomes more sincere and generous, the practice of virtue more perfect. Such acts of virtue leave the heart filled with joy and consolation and are known as Fruits of the Holy Ghost. These fruits in turn render the practice of virtue more attractive and become a powerful incentive for still greater efforts in the service of God, to serve Whom is to reign.

Prayer

Come, O Divine Spirit, fill my heart with Thy heavenly fruits, Thy charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, faith, mildness, and temperance, that I may never weary in the service of God, but by continued faithful submission to Thy inspiration, may merit to be united eternally with Thee in the love of the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which have appeared in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Friday, June 02, 2017

Novena Day 8: The Gift of Wisdom

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.


Bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.


Meditation

Embodying all the other gifts, as charity embraces all other virtues, Wisdom is the most perfect of the gifts. Of wisdom it is written “all good things came to me with her, and innumerable riches through her hands.” It is the gift of Wisdom that strengthens our faith, fortifies hope, perfects charity, and promotes the practice of virtue in the highest degree. Wisdom enlightens the mind to discern and relish things divine, in the appreciation of which earthly joys lose their savor, whilst the Cross of Christ yields a divine sweetness according to the words of the Savior: “Take up thy cross and follow Me, for My yoke is sweet, and My burden light.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, power and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all passing joys and satisfactions of the earth. Help me to attain them and possess them for ever. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Novena Day 7: The Gift of Counsel

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.


Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilt away.


Meditation

The gift of Counsel endows the soul with supernatural prudence, enabling it to judge promptly and rightly what must be done, especially in difficult circumstances. Counsel applies the principles furnished by Knowledge and Understanding to the innumerable concrete cases that confront us in the course of our daily duty as parents, teachers, public servants and Christian citizens. Counsel is supernatural common sense, a priceless treasure in the quest of salvation. “Above all these things, pray to the Most High, that He may direct thy way in truth.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do Thy holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good; turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the straight path of Thy commandments to that goal of eternal life for which I long. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Novena Day 6: The Gift of Understanding

Sine tuo numine
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.


Where thou art not, man hath naught,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.


Meditation

Understanding, as a gift of the Holy Ghost, helps us to grasp the meaning of the truths of our holy religion. By faith we know them, but by Understanding we learn to appreciate and relish them. It enables us to penetrate the inner meaning of revealed truths and through them to be quickened to newness of life. Our faith ceases to be sterile and inactive, but inspires a mode of life that bears eloquent testimony to the faith that is in us; we begin to “walk worthy of God in all things pleasing, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Prayer

Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation; and may merit at last to see the eternal light in Thy light; and in the light of glory to have a clear vision of Thee and the Father and the Son. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Novena Day 5: The Gift of Knowledge

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.


O most blessed Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill!


Meditation

The gift of Knowledge enables the soul to evaluate created things at their true worth -- in relation to God. Knowledge unmasks the pretense of creatures, reveals their emptiness, and points out their only true purpose as instruments in the service of God. It shows us the loving care of God even in adversity, and directs us to glorify Him in every circumstance of life. Guided by its light, we put first things first, and prize the friendship of God beyond all else. “Knowledge is a fountain of life to him that possesseth it.”

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Knowledge, and grant that I may perceive the will of the Father; show me the nothingness of earthly things, that I may realize their vanity and use them only for Thy glory and my own salvation, looking ever beyond them to Thee, and Thy eternal rewards. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Novena Day 4: The Gift of Fortitude

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies,
in fletu solacium.


In our labor, rest most sweet;
grateful coolness in the heat;
solace in the midst of woe.


Meditation

By the gift of Fortitude, the soul is strengthened against natural fear, and supported to the end in the performance of duty. Fortitude imparts to the will an impulse and energy which move it to undertake without hesitancy the most arduous tasks, to face dangers, to trample under foot human respect, and to endure without complaint the slow martyrdom of even lifelong tribulation. “He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.”

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Fortitude, uphold my soul in times of trouble and adversity, sustain my efforts after holiness, strengthen my weakness, give me courage against all the assaults of my enemies, that I may never be overcome and separated from Thee, my God and greatest Good. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Novena Day 3: The Gift of Piety

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.


Thou, of comforters the best;
thou, the soul's most welcome guest;
sweet refreshment here below.


Meditation

The gift of Piety begets in our hearts a filial affection for God as our most loving Father. It inspires us to love and respect for His sake persons and things consecrated to Him, as well as those who are vested with His authority, His Blessed Mother and the Saints, the Church and its visible Head, our parents and superiors, our country and its rulers. He who is filled with the gift of Piety finds the practice of his religion, not a burdensome duty, but a delightful service. Where there is love, there is no labor.

Prayer

Come, O Blessed Spirit of Piety, possess my heart. Enkindle therein such a love for God, that I may find satisfaction only in His service, and for His sake lovingly submit to all legitimate authority. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Novena Day 2: The Gift of Fear

Veni pater pauperum,
veni dator munerum,
veni lumen cordium.


Come, thou Father of the poor!
Come, thou Source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine!


Meditation

The gift of Fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread nothing so much as to offend Him by Sin. It is a fear that arises, not from the thought of hell, but from sentiments of reverence and filial submission to our heavenly Father. It is the fear that is the beginning of wisdom, detaching us from worldly pleasures that could in any way separate us from God. “They that fear the Lord will prepare their hearts, and in His sight will sanctify their souls.”

Prayer

Come, O blessed Spirit of Holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set Thee, my Lord and God, before my face forever; help me to shun all things that can offend Thee, and make me worthy to appear before the pure eyes of Thy Divine Majesty in heaven, where Thou livest and reignest in the unity of the ever Blessed Trinity, God world without end. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Novena Day 1: The Holy Ghost

Veni Sancte Spiritus
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.


Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine!


Meditation

Only one thing is important -- eternal salvation. Only one thing, therefore, is to be feared -- sin. Sin is the result of ignorance, weakness, and indifference. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Light, of Strength, and of Love. With His sevenfold gifts, He enlightens the mind, strengthens the will, and inflames the heart with love of God. To ensure our salvation, we ought to invoke the Divine Spirit daily, for “The Spirit helpeth our infirmity. We know not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit Himself asketh for us.”

Prayer

Almighty and eternal God, Who hast vouchsafed to regenerate us by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given us forgiveness of all our sins, vouchsafe to send forth from heaven upon us Thy sevenfold Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel and Fortitude, the Spirit of Knowledge and Piety, and fill us with the Spirit of Holy Fear. Amen.

Our Father ... Hail Mary ... Glory Be ...

(Our thanks to Soulpacifica for the lovely images personifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are to appear in this series with her appreciation, for which this writer is grateful. To see the novena as completed to the present, click here.)
 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Novena: Prelude

Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who is to be taken up from you into heaven had to re-schedule his departure to the following Sunday in order to accomodate the busy schedules of the faithful. Now, get back to work.

(Acts 1:11, dynamic equivalent translation)


Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Ascension, when Christ ascended into Heaven forty days after He rose from the dead.

Then again ...

In most provinces of the USA, and in entire countries throughout the world, the Feast has been moved to the following Sunday. We could just leave well enough alone, and transfer the obligation itself to the Sunday within the octave of the Feast, but the Western church got rid of many of its octaves in the mid-1950s, and a few more since then. You'd have to explain to people what an octave is, and that is such a pain. So unless you attend the Traditional Mass or an Eastern Rite Divine Liturgy today, in which case the aforementioned silliness does not apply, today will be remembered as just another Easter weekday.

If only they put the right spin on it, in which case it would go something like this:

“Most biblical scholars agree that Jesus ascended into Heaven forty-three days after He rose from the dead, not forty days as previously believed. The number of forty was arrived at by the end of the third century, to make it easier for Christians to count the days after Easter on their fingers and toes and double the total. But we’re so much more sophisticated now, and we can use calculators to count that high, or have our smartphones remind us.”

Whether or not we would fall for that, moving a Feast Day to a Sunday because we're all too damned lazy to go to Mass on a weekday (or a weeknight) makes about as much sense.

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But suppose that sacred time actually mattered, in which case it would go something like this:

The Church was born on the Jewish feast of the Pentecost. After the ascension of Christ into heaven, a group which, according to tradition, numbered about 120, remained sequestered in the Upper Room for nine days, awaiting the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

They returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day's journey away; and when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. (Acts 1:12-14)

Thus the birth of our Holy Mother the Church was preceded by a novena.

From the Latin word "novem," meaning "nine," a novena is a prayer that is repeated for nine days, after which, according to pious belief, special graces are obtained. Fisheaters elaborates on the devotion, and gives a complete listing of popular novenas for any and all occasions.

The novena to Saint Jude may be the most popular, as he is the patron saint of hopeless causes. Many a Catholic has found a holy card or slip of paper in the pew with the prayer written on it, left by a pious soul whose intention was granted. One of them was the late entertainer Danny Thomas, whose devotion to the saint moved him to establish the children's hospital that bears the saint's name.

We here at man with black hat will present our exclusive adaptation of the mother of all novenas, that which is devoted to the Holy Spirit, over the next nine days. Stay tuned...
 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mom

When all is said and done, there are as many tributes on Mother's Day as there are mothers worthy of the name. But if grit were considered a theological virtue, we might possibly be more assured of Mom's place in eternity. Unknown to a world that assumed all was well in hand with our family, she was the lynchpin that held it together, "for better or for worse."

(Under construction ...)
 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Sumer Is Icumen In

Well, folks, it’s that time again. The April showers give way to the May flowers. Thus we have “May Day.” Makes sense, right?

“Sumer Is Icumen In” was written by an anonymous English composer, probably around the mid-13th century, as a round in six parts. This can be really confusing, as seen in what is possibly the most amusing example our Research Department could find, a group of hearty and cocksure lads busking on the streets of ... somewhere in the UK, and with only four parts.

Maybe the lyrics would help.

Summer is a-coming in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow blooms
And the wood springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!
The ewe bleats after the lamb
The cow lows after the calf.
The bullock stirs, the buck-goat turns,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing, cuckoo;
Don't you ever stop now,
Sing cuckoo now. Sing, Cuckoo.
Sing Cuckoo. Sing cuckoo now!

Doesn’t do it for ya, does it? Maybe if we went totally authentic and used Middle English...

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes þu cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.
Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!

Nah, still ain’t happening? Well, why not take it to the next level, starting from scratch?

“The Safety Dance” was the biggest hit single by that wacky 1980s pop group known as “Men Without Hats” (which has a similar ring to the title of this weblog, so now know you where we got the idea.). It was written by lead singer Ivan Doroschuk, who does his own stunts for this video, as you can see. It was released in the States in 1982, and in the UK in 1983. Don’t ask me why. Anyway, it hit number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on Cash Box, as well as number one on the Billboard Dance Chart. In the UK it reached number six. It was the only major international hit for the group.

The video was filmed in West Kington, near Bath, in southwest England. Ivan is the only band member who is obvious; the others appear somewhere in the town square. This is the perfect video for May Day. It has everything: mandolins, masks, Maypoles, merriment, Morris dancers (the Chippenham Town Morris from Wiltshire, to be exact), mullet heads, musicians -- and of course, midgets! (I know, I know, he‘s a dwarf, not a midget, but that doesn’t begin with an “m” now, does it?)

And with that, everybody look at your hands!
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where Have You Gone, Quasimodo?

Today is known on the Christian calendar by at least six names.

In the traditional Missale Romanum, it is referred to as “Dominica in albis octava Paschae” -- Sunday in White Within the Paschal Octave, when the robes of the neophytes are removed eight days after their initiation into the Sacraments during the Paschal Vigil. In the traditional Roman calendar, it is officially known as “The Octave Day of Easter” or more colloquially as “Low Sunday.” It has also been popularly known as “Quasimodo Sunday” (my personal favorite, hence the title), after the first words of the Entrance Antiphon, or Introit: “Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia ...” (“Like newborn infants, alleluia ...”) In the Eastern churches, it is known as “Thomas Sunday” as the same gospel is read, that of our Lord showing himself to the doubting apostle Thomas.

Since 2000, by decree of the late Pope Saint John Paul II, it is also known in the universal Roman calendar as Divine Mercy Sunday, "the culmination of the novena to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, a devotion given to St Faustina (Mary Faustina Kowalska) and is based upon an entry in her diary stating that anyone who participates in the Mass and receives the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist on this day is assured by Jesus of full remission of their sins." (from Wikipedia)

(I already thought Confession did that anyway. This is what I get for using Wikipedia for the short version.)

This brings up an issue which has concerned traditional Catholics in recent years, one that is presented in a 2010 issue of New Oxford Review by Robert Allard: "Is Divine Mercy Sunday Liturgically Correct?"

It is interesting to note that in the Tridentine Latin Mass, the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the epistle reading, 1 John 5:4-10, includes the mention of the blood and water as portrayed in the Divine Mercy image, not just once but three times each. This is important to note because the Feast of Mercy was established for the entire Church universal, not just for the ordinary form of the Mass.

There's also that part about Our Lord breathing on the apostles, giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. There's a bit of mercy for the rest of us right there.

Such remembrances need to be harmonized with the liturgical season if they are to serve the faithful. This requires sufficient deference to the history of salvation as played out during the year, beginning with the incarnation, and on into the life, passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, followed by his ascension into Glory, and the establishment of His Church on Earth through the work of the Holy Spirit. That said, there is an aspect of this devotion that may appear problematic, one that has less to do with the Feast itself, than with the novena which precedes it, one that begins on Holy Thursday, and extends throughout the Week of Easter.

Q. My pastor will allow us to pray the Divine Mercy Novena, but not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. He says it interferes with the Holy Triduum, which are the holiest days of the year.

A. The Paschal Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) ushers in Easter Sunday and constitutes the most holy period of the Church year. The Divine Mercy Novena does not supersede the Triduum, but extends the Solemn General Intercessions of the Good Friday observance of Our Lord's Passion and Death throughout the whole octave of Easter, building up to the day of thanksgiving for Our Lord's Divine Mercy.

This response contradicts itself. It claims that the timing of the Novena doesn't "supersede" the Tritium, and then goes on to ignore its culmination. That makes no sense. Superseding is exactly what it does.

For nearly two millennia, the Easter season, including the Octave, has been devoted to the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The traditional requirement to abstain from meat does not apply on the Friday of this octave, such is the extension of the occasion. The Fathers of the Church have told us, we have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast. Yet the novena is devoted to chanting thus: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” Granted, at every Mass offered on any given day, we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ -- the whole nine yards. But that comparison ends in the context of the liturgical seasons, the purpose of which are to shed a spotlight on a particular aspect of salvation history at the liturgical year progresses. There is sufficient reason to doubt that the emphasis made by this novena, given its timing, sheds that spotlight appropriately, even if we reduce it to a mere devotion (as opposed to the official prayer of the Church through her liturgical life).

If we read the history of the development of this Feast that is the Sunday within the Octave of Easter, if we understand what the readings and the orations are trying to tell us, we might consider the possibility that Our Lord was telling Sister Faustina something of Himself, which He has been trying to say to His Bride, our Mother the Church, all along. At the same time, She has long admonished us to be prudent with respect to the messages of private revelations. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 65-67).

While accepting the judgment of the Apostolic See in this matter of the Sunday commemoration itself, we may long for a further study of this devotion in relation to the whole of the liturgical year. Even if the novena is not "liturgy" in the official sense, its use in parishes during the octave of the Resurrection misses the big picture.

“We have commemorated the fast, therefore let us celebrate the feast.”

... for eight days, if not forty, and if you don't mind.

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To learn more about the devotion to the Divine Mercy, visit the website of the Apostles of Divine Mercy at DivineMercySunday.com, or that of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception at TheDivineMercy.org. For a guide to praying the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, go to the appropriate page at EWTN.com.
 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Christus resurrexit! Sicut dixit, Alleluia!

It was on an Easter Sunday,
    and all in the morning,
Our Savior arose,
    and our heavenly King.
The sun and the moon,
    they both did rise
        with him,
And sweet Jesus
    we’ll call him by name.


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An Easter Homily of Saint John Chrysostom

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!

Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.

For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!

You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.

He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."

Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

“Awake, O sleeper ...”

Something strange is happening -- there is a silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.

At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

“I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in Me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

“For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, Whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

“See on My Face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On My back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See My hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

“I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced My side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

“Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”


From a homily of St Epiphanius of Cyprus
 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday

It was on a good Friday,
    and all in the morning,
They crucified our Savior,
    and our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing
And sweet Jesus,
    we’ll call him by name.


From "the third hour" until "the sixth hour." From sext to none. From noon until three in the afternoon. Scripture tells us that our Lord was dying on the cross at this time, culminating in the words “Consummatum Est” (“It is finished”).

When we were kids, growing up in Ohio, we would either go to church for Stations of the Cross or some related devotion, or if we were at home, Mom would turn the radio off, and we were told to be quieter than usual. Thus did we mark the consummation of the ultimate act of sacrificial Love, that of the Bridegroom with His bride.

PHOTO: Gail Deibler Finke

Elsewhere in Cincinnati, a venerable custom of more than a century and a half still takes place on this day.

In December 1860, a Catholic church was completed on a bluff atop Mount Adams, overlooking the central city from the east, and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since the hill was too steep for a horse-and-buggy, there were a series of wooden steps built as well, leading from St Gregory Street near the river, all the way to the church entrance. The following spring saw the start of the War Between The States, and Immaculata Church became the site of devout Catholics praying the rosary for peace, while climbing the steps to its entrance.

Even today, the tradition continues, as every year on Good Friday (a day when it invariably rains), an estimated ten thousand pilgrims climb the 85 steps -- the wooden ones having since been replaced by concrete -- leading to the entrance. The procession begins at midnight, with the parish priest's blessing of the steps, and continues for twenty-four hours.

The Passionist Historical Archives elaborates on the legacy of “St Mary’s of the Steps”, as does the parish website.

Finally, our meditation for Good Friday is a "sand art" presentation of the road to Calvary, produced by Francis O'Donohue.
 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Maundy Thursday

It was on a
    maundy Thursday,
        and all in the morning,
They planted
    a crown of thorns
        on our heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus
    we'll call him by name.


Today begins the Sacred Triduum. It is quiet here at Chez Alexandre. The week has amounted to a "working vacation," mostly doing things around the house that needed being done. And yet there are preparations to be made, errands to be run, and ... more writing.

For a Catholic, as much as some try to deny it, the next three days are not business as usual. The whole of human history -- before, during, after -- turns on the events we remember this week.

Our meditation is from a poem by Jalaludin Rumi. It is translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, with music by David Wilcox and Nance Pettit, and is produced by Bob Carlton.
 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spy Wednesday

It was on a Holy Wednesday,
    and all in the morning
When Judas betrayed
    our dear heavenly King.
And was not this
    a woeful thing,
And sweet Jesus,
    we'll call him by name.


This day in Holy Week is known among Western Christians by the above title (or among Christians in the East, Μεγάλη Τετάρτη, in case you were wondering), as tradition commemorates this day for when Judas Iscariot conspired with the Sanhedrin to betray Our Lord, in exchange for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).

Was that a lot of money in those days?

The term in the original language, "arguria," simply means "silver coins." Historians disagree as to what form of currency is described. They could have been either staters from Antioch, tetradrachms from Ptolemy, or shekels from Tyre. (Nothing about Greek drachmas, which were either bronze, copper, or iron. Just so we're clear on that.)

Closer to the present, it is also when we here at man with black hat (more or less) interrupt our usual blogcasting in order to focus on the Main Event for the several days that follow. Stay tuned ...
 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

“I’m (still) on a mission from God!” (or, Why I Am Not Giving Up Blogging For Lent)

“Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.”

By now, any number of participants in the Catholic blogosphere have announced, with some measure of fanfare, that they are giving up blogging and other forms of social media for Lent (or, in one case, announcing giving up blogging, and then spending more time on social media, and you know who you are, Skippy!). We're supposed to admire them. They're welcome to the exercise if they'd like. In reading some of them over the years, they'd be doing us all a favor.

Meanwhile, at a place in the Catholic blogosphere well outside the Celebrity Convert Circuit, what follows is why I'm not giving up blogging for Lent. In addition, while not a complete treatise on the subject, this piece will serve to clear up some heretofore little-known aspects of the season.

The Christian calendar has traditionally had numerous periods of fasting in anticipation of great feasts. In some parts of Europe, the "Saint Martin's Fast" would begin on the 11th of November ("Martinmas"), and continue until Christmas. Officially, however, the Roman (Latin) tradition would not begin the penitential season until the four Sundays before Christmas, the time of which is known as "Advent," or "the Coming." There were also the "Ember Days," three days of penance each occurring on a quarterly basis throughout the year. But it was the season of Lent which is known as "The Great Fast" of the Year of Grace.

People assume that Lent is the only time for giving up anything, when it isn't. People also assume that giving up anything involves making a big to-do about it, when it shouldn't. Attending daily Mass is a popular exercise, and in most major cities where there are urban parishes near a business district, there will be an extra scheduled weekday Mass -- and extra time for confessions -- during the season. These things don't always call attention to themselves. They shouldn't.

But don't take MY word for it.

At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

And speaking of the season, it doesn't necessarily start right away. The traditional Roman calendar precedes Lent with three Sundays collectively known as "Septuagesima" (literally "seventy days" but actually "within the octave of seventy days"). They were termed "Septuagesima Sunday," "Sexagesima Sunday," and "Quinquagesima Sunday," respectively. As with Lent, the priest wears violet vestments, the Gloria is not sung, and the Tract replaces the Alleluia before the Gospel. But unlike Lent, the musical accompaniment is not restricted, and flowers and other suitable decor can be placed on the reredos behind the altar, as normally done during the year.

This is also the inspiration for the pre-Lenten celebration known as “Carnival” (from the Latin for “farewell to meat”).

Meanwhile, on the eastern side of the tracks, the Byzantine Rite has five special Sundays preceding their "Great Fast": "Zacchaeus Sunday" (if only in the Slavic churches), "The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee," "The Sunday of the Prodigal Son," "Meatfare Sunday" (or "The Sunday of the Last Judgment," when the faithful begin abstaining from meat), and "Cheesefare Sunday" (when the faithful begin abstaining from dairy products, which for them would include eggs, don't ask me why). The following day is when the the Fast begins in the East, and is generally known as "Clean Monday."

In addition, there was a time when weddings were not permitted during Advent or Lent, unless there was a serious reason. And if one was allowed, the altar and sanctuary could not be decorated as it could otherwise be for the occasion. (Try that today, and see a young lady get in touch with her inner Bridezilla, eh?)

So right now you're saying, “Pray tell us, O Black Hatted One, as you are a veritable fountain of arcane and useless knowledge, how does it explain why you're not giving up blogging for Lent?”

Well, my little minions, there is much, much more to Lent than giving up things, never mind making a big-@$$ whoop-dee-do out of it. There is a significance in the marking of sacred time, something lost on a people whose solemnities all get moved to the nearest Sunday. But you wouldn't know all that if there was no one to tell you along the way, now, would you? Duh, guess not! Besides, I had to work in all that arcane and useless knowledge somehow.

To the extent that man with black hat identifies itself as "Catholic," its author is engaged in what could be considered a propagation of the Faith. And in case it isn't obvious by now, you don't give up an apostolate for Lent, you big dummy!

But still, you must be wondering if yours truly is actually giving up anything for Lent. Well, yes, and it's something really important.

And I'm not tellin.'